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Church Historian’s Press Publishes Earliest and Final Discourses of Eliza R. Snow; Online Edition Now Complete

SALT LAKE CITY—The Church Historian’s Press today announced the online publication of nearly sixty additional discourses by Latter-day Saint leader and poet Eliza R. Snow, dating from 1840 to 1856 and from 1885 to 1887. This new batch of documents includes the earliest and the final public discourses given by Snow. Transcripts of these and all other extant Snow discourses are available for free to the public at churchhistorianspress.org/eliza-r-snow.

Snow’s first form of public speech was poetry. “I was partial to poetical works,” she wrote in her “Sketch of My Life.” As a young student, she often wrote assigned compositions in rhyme; one day, she was called upon by a teacher to read aloud her essay to the class. She was embarrassed and declined the invitation (and unfortunately this document has not survived). By the age of thirty-six, she submitted an essay to the Monmouth Debating Association in Warren County, Illinois. This, along with several of her other first addresses, was read by someone else.

Snow composed a public speech for the 1849 Pioneer Day celebration in the Salt Lake Valley. In the 1850s she attended gatherings of several cultural societies in which she (or a trusted friend reading for her) presented, as “addresses,” poetry rich in theology and philosophy. These opportunities contributed to the development of her personality and prepared her to proficiently deliver over twelve hundred discourses throughout her life.

Though Snow continued to travel and speak in the last few years of her life, her calendar indicates that she was slowing down. In 1885, she spoke twenty-one times; in 1886, she spoke only eight times; and in 1887, the year she died, she spoke eleven times. In mid-September 1887, Snow spoke on three successive days to the Salt Lake Stake Relief Society, Young Ladies, and Primary associations, all of which she had played a significant role in organizing. To the young women she said, “It has been a long time since I met with my young sisters in this capacity, and I am thankful to God for this privilege.” The next day, she told the children, “My dear children, I love you so much. God is very good.” She continued, “[I] am thankful to God that I am able to come here.” Local newspapers reported that Snow delivered what turned out to be her final public address two days later at the Parley P. and Orson Pratt family reunion; unfortunately, her words were not recorded.

The release of these latest discourses, bookending her career in public speaking, marks the conclusion of the effort commenced several years ago by the Church History Department to find, transcribe, and publish all of Snow’s surviving discourses. Updates will be made to the site if additional discourses are discovered and to correct any transcription errors. A separate effort is already well underway to annotate and publish in hard copy a selection of Snow’s discourses. That book is expected in print in a few years, and eventually the annotations from that volume will be made available on the Church Historian’s Press website.

The publication of this final batch of Snow documents is itself a historic moment. For the first time, the complete discourses of Eliza R. Snow—second general president of the Relief Society, renowned author of hymns and poetry, plural wife to Joseph Smith and then to Brigham Young, and cofounder of the church’s organizations for women, young women, and children—are available for use by scholars and Latter-day Saints.

Jennifer Reeder, the lead historian for the Discourses of Eliza R. Snow, said that completing the online edition is bittersweet: “Of course, we are excited that these incredible discourses are all available to the public, but at the same time it’s been sad to see Eliza’s life drawing to a close and to know that we have reached her final sermon.”

Reflecting on how seriously Snow considered the responsibility to teach others as well as on the completion of the online project, Reeder pointed to the address Snow gave to her students in spring 1843 at the end of the school session. To the pupils she had taught and loved, Snow said, “The time has arrived which is to dissolve the tie of relationship with which we are connected to each other, as Instructor and the instructed. While I feel myself about to be liberated from the duties and relieved from the great weight of responsibility which have devolved upon me, the thought of a separation from you impresses my mind with feelings which I cannot describe.”

Reeder also commented on how Snow would be delighted to know that her discourses live on to influence readers today. “She put so much energy into traveling and speaking and building up these organizations,” Reeder said. “She taught the women how to organize their work and keep minutes and financial records, how to recognize their role as holy women, how to seek and receive personal revelation, and how to contribute to society in significant ways. She was beloved across the church as Zion’s ‘poetess’ and ‘presidentess,’ the latter reflecting her leadership over the women’s organizations. It is so thrilling to be involved in making her discourses available to people in the twenty-first century.”

From the Nauvoo Relief Society to the Pinto Primary to the Samaria Young Ladies, this poetess and presidentess taught religious doctrine and principles, testified of her beliefs, and shared practical wisdom and encouragement, leaving an indelible legacy of both words and deeds.

About the Church Historian’s Press

The Church Historian’s Press was announced in 2008 by the Church History Department of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The Joseph Smith Papers was the first publication to bear the imprint. The press publishes works of Latter-day Saint history that meet high standards of scholarship. For more information, visit the Church Historian’s Press website.